With the many uncertainties that continue to surround us at this moment in time, we’re compelled to look to the philosophies that strengthen how well we’re able to respond. We look to the tools that may help shape our roadmap for recovery in a way that supports the essential function of community.
LFDTLAB’s ‘Mapping Now: Vital Little Plans’ is a map inspired by New York City’s grid systems on the Lower East Side. The map’s annotations are statements inspired by the writings of Jane Jacobs and are gentle suggestions or prompts that can be taken into action through reflection, in movement, or on the streets.
Jane Jacobs was an urban planner, activist and social theorist. Her work centered around philosophies of inclusion, resistance and community-building. The toolkit that she created during her life’s work came from a broad dissection of social and built environments. Jacobs centered her work around resistance to commercialization, criminalization and segregation, and her theories on urban planning and social organizing were meant for application at the individual level, as tools for building civic capacity – teachings that rest on the foundational principle that: any given public space is defined by the degree to which we participate with it.
Whether we consider the spaces within our own bodies, down to the space between our cells – or when thinking of space as the arena of possibility that makes up our city streets or our homes, it’s time to open it all up. Let’s act as both the designer/architect, and the user/inhabitant of these spaces.
*** This project was initiated in March, 2020 as a contribution to New York City’s celebration of Lower East Side history month. It has seen many iterations since then. Moving from a live performance in its first stages, then evolving as an interactive digital work under the rapidly changing contexts of a global pandemic, followed only and encircled by the largest civil rights movement in history. We now see that this project is and always will be a work-in-process. It is like all things that sprout up in moments of adversity and challenge – shaped by changing circumstances. Today we present the work in yet another format. As a map and an offering that might enrich your journey and help mark your path on the road to radical change.
We have created a playlist for suggested use as an audible guide or partner on your journey through this work. Featuring ten songs to accompany the ten prompts, each piece of music chosen was shaped or inspired in some way by the Lower East Side, known as an incubator and mecca for all genres of music.
01 – Move to the Edge, Declare it Center
The stakes are high. Look for value in what’s bubbling on the edge, pivot your task – you are the keeper of the city. Seek new space by pushing the edge further? Or move to the edge and declare it center?
*suggested listening, Glenn Branca – Sym. No. 1, Movement
02 – Harmonize Then and Now
Only time will tell what will become of us, somehow distinguished from our past selves.
It may finally be time to mingle our needs with a wanting inclination. We may find we’re capable of tackling these future challenges if we’re willing to return to the past.
*suggested listening, The Velvet Underground – Oh! Sweet Nuthin’
03 – Serve More than one Primary Function
How do we flourish when we’re alone in a room that was meant to be filled? If needs – or rather, what is *essential* has now been so clearly defined, can you trace your movements back to each functional need?
One thing always leads to another. All bodies really do is coordinate specialized activities while serving a multitude of functions – circulate to nourish, nourish in order to rest, rest so you can regenerate, regenerate to get ready for re-circulation.
*suggested listening, The Voidz, Human Sadness
04 – Eyes on the Street
How clear is your sightline? Can you shift focus towards those at the periphery? Have you asked yourself: “Safety for who?”
*suggested listening, Jimi Hendrix, Changes – Live at Fillmore East
05 – Activate Empty Spaces
Find the coveted pockets that take up the something in between. Form a pathway that fills in a gap left by urban erosion – Can you populate the alternative way to get there? Is it ok to stop?
*suggested listening, Philip Glass – Etude No. 2
06 – Short Blocks
How many feet do you space between each step? How much can happen in those steps? Could you increase path options between your point of departure and your destination?
*suggested listening, Fania All Stars, Me Gusta El Son – Live
07 – Sidewalk, Side Walk
It’s what it says, and it all happens here.
*suggested listening, Genya Ravan, 202 Rivington Street
08 – Vital Little Plans
How many levels are you a part of? Where can you plot yourself? In your country? Your city? Your district? Your neighborhood? Your block? The building? The room? Or, maybe – sitting on only this part of the carpet.
*suggested listening, Santigold, LES Artistes
09 – Systems of Survival
We call the bodies that make up the mass of a city its residents. So what of the ever-transforming boundaries of citizenship, the flux of a city perimeter – Is there a middle ground when it comes to occupying space at the street level; something between a residing permanence and the quick dip of a visitor? Is this how we organize complexity?
*suggested listening, Sonic Youth, Into the Groovey
10 – Dissent for the Sake of the Task
There has never been a better time. Find what needs to dismantled and begin building the very something that’s meant to replace it.
*suggested listening, Suicide, Ghost Rider